Through acts demonstrated again and again in all walks of life, love is truly the tie that binds. One of the strongest loves is between mother and child. For that reason a child, when faced with the loss of a mother, is frightened; a space once full is empty and what was normal is not.
Gianna Marino in her newest title released this spring, Meet Me at the Moon (Viking, March 22, 2012), uses the plains of Africa as a backdrop for a story of love.
Beneath the shade of the baobab tree, Little One sang, the calling song, and Mama came with a loving nuzzle.
It is in this closeness that Mama tells Little One she must go, climbing the tallest mountain to seek from the skies rain for their parched land.
Naturally, Little One doesn't want Mama to leave but she tells her child her love is everywhere, surrounding Little One. She reassures Little One's questions with replies reflecting this belief; hearing her song on the wind, feeling her love in the sun's warmth, and seeing the same bright star in the night sky. When Little One wonders how Mama will find Little One again, Mama says:
"When the night sky is bright, Little One, meet me at the moon, where the sky touches the earth.
With final spoken words of love, Mama leaves on her journey. In her absence the young elephant listens to the wind, searches the starry dark and feels the warm of the sun knowing Mama's love. Days pass with the land ever growing more dry.
Rains finally pour from the sky but Little One is unable to hear Mama on the wind, see their star or without the sun, feel her love. As the sky clears, evening descends with the moon rising. But how is Little One to reach the moon so high? Remembering, a song floats into the night air.
Gianna Marino's text in this gentle story has a lyrical rhythm; as if one were reading a poem. Mama's answers to Little One's doubts are exactly as one would expect from a creature close to the beating heart of Earth. Readers will find comfort in the narrative as well as an expression of faith and hope.
In an interview given at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, Marino describes her process for creating the mixed media paintings for this book also including the story behind this story. Front endpapers show a glowing orange sunrise sky with the rolling plains in silhouette along the bottom. A deepening night sky is depicted on the closing endpapers signifying a passage of time.
Throughout the story all the visuals are panoramic, two page spreads conveying the vastness of the setting. Rich, warm hues of red, orange, and yellow dominate the pages with the land changing color indicting the presence or lack of rain. The larger than life place of the sun and moon on many of the pages, a circle, illustrates the "no beginning, no end" idea of the love between Mama and Little One. The final illustration of the pair beneath the moon continues that shape with Mama encircling Little One.
The illustrations of Little One and Mama are not done with them in isolation; zebras and giraffes are in constant motion in the background or framing the mother and child. Knowing Little One is alone they are given a larger importance in the paintings. Expressions on the faces of all the animals are a thing of beauty.
Meet Me at the Moon by Gianna Marino is a marvel of breathtaking detail set among the savannahs of Africa conveying the link of love that separation can not break. Paintings and text work as one telling a story, timeless and true. Share this book with everyone, with someone you love.